Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CASA Columbia Makes False Public Accusation; Needs to Get Its Facts Straight

In a letter to the editor published this week in the New York Times, CASA Columbia (formerly the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) publicly accused Reynolds American and other tobacco companies of marketing flavored electronic cigarettes to children.

In the letter, the Center writes: "E-cigarettes are a very effective delivery system for the addictive drug nicotine. Nicotine is particularly dangerous for our children, since early use increases the risk of addiction involving both nicotine and other drugs. With its enthusiastic endorsement of e-cigarettes, the tobacco industry is once again marketing the disease of addiction to this most vulnerable customer base. ... Flavorings like chocolate, cherry and peach are clearly not aimed at the typical middle-aged consumer seeking to quit an addiction involving tobacco, and these products have not been proved to be effective in accomplishing that goal. More than one in seven Americans already have the disease of addiction. Are we prepared to knowingly stand by and allow Big Tobacco to increase that number in the name of profit yet again?"

The Rest of the Story

Unfortunately, CASA Columbia does not have its facts straight and its accusation is demonstrably false.

According to the Center, Big Tobacco is marketing electronic cigarettes in chocolate, cherry, and peach varieties in order to addict children. Well, Reynolds American is part of Big Tobacco, so let's examine a list of all of their chocolate, cherry, and peach electronic cigarette brands that are being marketed:

No, you didn't miss anything. Above is a complete list of the candy- and fruit-flavored electronic cigarettes marketed by Reynolds. There are none!

Vuse does not come in a chocolate flavor, nor a cherry flavor, nor a peach flavor. The truth is that it only comes in two flavors: original and menthol.

So CASA Columbia is obviously speaking nonsense when it accuses Reynolds American of marketing flavors like chocolate, cherry, and peach to youth.

While Lorillard's Blu cigs do come in several flavors, these flavors were available before the company was acquired by Lorillard and it would make no sense for the company to discontinue those flavors and lose most of its customers. Nevertheless, its disposable electronic cigarettes are only available in classic tobacco and menthol. If CASA Columbia were correct and Lorillard's true intention was to get children to become addicted to electronic cigarettes, then certainly it would offer some more interesting flavors than original tobacco and menthol.

The rest of the story is that the tobacco companies are not marketing electronic cigarettes to children and they are not going to do so. That would be stupid and would make no business sense. If electronic cigarettes do become popular among youth, it will be the end of the market. The FDA will step in quicker than a wink and put an end to the whole thing. The tobacco companies are being very careful not to market to youth. And they will continue to do so.

CASA Columbia doesn't appear to have a clue about what is going on in the real world. Its letter is pure ideological nonsense.

If the electronic cigarette companies were marketing to children, don't you think that after about seven years of this, surveys would be able to pick up more than zero nonsmoking youths who are regular electronic cigarette users? There is strong evidence that despite the marketing of these products for years, youth are not picking up the product for regular use. Addiction of children to electronic cigarettes is not occurring in the real world, although it is apparently the only purpose that electronic cigarettes serve in CASA Columbia's fantasy world.

This is yet another demonstration that the modern tobacco control movement has lost its scientific integrity. It is being driven by ideology, not science; by fantasy, not reality; and by false accusations and misrepresentations rather than by the plain truth.

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